World Alzheimer’s Day: Let’s Talk About Dementia

We were at the airport trying to board a flight back home to Akure, Ondo state, Nigeria. My dad has been missing for some days now and no one seemed to know his whereabouts.

I had been so caught up with work, school and my family that I totally forgot to check up on my parents.

On getting home after an eighteen-hour flight from Australia, I decided to rest and search for my dad the next day but before I could retire to my room, a heavy knock was heard on the door.

My mum looked at me wondering if I was expecting someone, we got to the door and there was my dad looking so pale and weak.

I screamed and rushed to hug him but he pushed me away. I and mom were shocked. I said, “Baba Wunmi, it’s me your only daughter Wunmi”. He replied, “leave my house, I have no child”.

I cried all night because I have never seen daddy this cold. It didn’t take long before the doctor diagnosed him with a condition called Senile Dementia also known as Alzheimer’s Disease.

This year, the theme of World Alzheimer’s day is “Lets talk about Dementia” as a way of opening up a conversation about the experiences of persons with this condition.

A lot of people are not aware of this particular disease condition and because of this the patients are not cared for properly.

Although, the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not fully understood it is caused by a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors.

Quick Facts About Alzheimer’s Disease

  • It is a progressive disease that causes the brain cells to degenerate and die leading to loss of memory and other important brain functions.
  • It can’t be cured but can be managed
  • It requires medical diagnosis
  • It can be a lifelong condition

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease

  1. Memory Loss: This can be observed when the individual repeats his statements and questions, gets lost in familiar places, forgets names of family members.
  2. They find it difficult to concentrate & think about abstract concept such as numbers and managing finances.
  3. Behavioral changes: Their personality and behavior start to change. They become depressed, apathetic, aggressive, easily irritated, delusional, and distrust people easily.
  4. At the last stage of the disease, the brain changes begin to affect balance, bowel and bladder movement.

Risk Factors

  1. Age – It doesn’t affect kids, mostly people >65 years old
  2. Family history and genetics (when a relative has the condition)
  3. Down Syndrome
  4. Sex – It’s usually more common in females than in males.
  5. Past head trauma
  6. Poor sleeping patterns
  7. Lifestyle and Health: Lack of exercise, obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.

Prevention

Alzheimer’s disease is not a preventable condition. However, a number of the lifestyle risk factors mentioned above can be modified by

  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Manage high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes properly.
  • Quit smoking and drinking
  • Engaging in mentally stimulating activities and games have been reported to be helpful.

Now you can understand why Baba Wunmi couldn’t recognize his only daughter.

Family members of persons with Alzheimer’s Disease deal with such regularly and its really important we create more awareness about the condition and the struggles around it.

Anyanwu Tobechi Innocentia

Pharmacist in training at the University of Port- Harcourt